By Nollaig Hulme
Our usual working day begins with a Portuguese bread roll and peanut butter at 8am while the students are already gathering for class. At 8.30am the bell rings for assembly. All of us and the students gather around the stage to hear a motivational speech or story given by a member of staff. It’s then straight off to work for the day. It so refreshing everyday to see how eager everyone in Young Africa is to get down to work. There’s no hanging about and they all get started as soon as they can. Everyone is so friendly everyday, everyone says ‘Bom dia’ to you. At the moment we are
building huts which will be used as accommodation. All the volunteers quickly find jobs to do whether it be getting wheelbarrows of sand, mixing cement or painting. The students we are working with are not only so eager to learn more about construction but also they spend the day trying their best to learn English, regularly asking what the English is for certain tools or actions. The language barrier between us and the students can be a difficult one at times but usually it can be overcome if we are willing to try. Our hard work continues after a short tea break at 11. Sometimes the level of work surprises me throughout the day, us volunteers are trusted with so much of the building process such as laying the actual bricks for the walls. I am also often surprised by the tasks we carry out. We mix cement on the ground using shovels. There is such a stark contrast between the resources that we have at home compared to the resources they have here in Young Africa. The workers here mix cement by hand instead of using a machine. In the beginning you would automatically think that a cement mixing machine would be a great thing to buy, however after thinking about it you realise that this would then replace the jobs of those 6/7 people who are employed to do jobs such as mix cement. Another thing I noticed here while working is that there is absolutely no waste on this work site. For example, in the morning one of us had the job of taking out old nails from pieces of wood that we were going to reuse, then in the afternoon we saw a student hammering these nails back straight to be used again. Even the old cement bags are reused to protect the floor from getting paint on it. At 12.30 we head over to the restaurant in Young Africa – ‘Magic O’s’ for some lunch which is always delicious! After lunch we have some free time which we tend to spend washing clothes or just lying out in the sun. Work usually finishes at 4. We go directly from the work site to the pitch where we join in with basketball games and soccer games. It’s amazing to see how even though we don’t speak the same language, when it comes to sport everyone is still able to play together. We play frisbee and chat with the little children who come in from outside the gates. It’s strange because no one really knows where they come from or how far they have had to travel to get there. One thing for certain is that they are always so happy with big smiles on their faces. It gets dark around 5.30/6 which was a shock for us considering in Ireland at the moment it’s bright until late. Dinner is at 6 in Magic O’s and is something different every night. After we have cleaned up, we all gather again for tea and biscuits, a few games of switch and chat about our day. Everyone is always exhausted from the day but it is always worth it. The days are already flying by so fast and I am loving every second of it. The work is so rewarding the attitude of the people we are working with is so inspiring.